Press Release

NNU condemns CDC’s decision to shorten the five-day isolation guidance for Covid-19

Bonnie Castillo, RN, Executive Director of NNU at podium surrounded by nurses holding signs "Protect Nurses, Patients, Public Health"

National Nurses United (NNU) condemns the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lump Covid-19 guidance in with other respiratory viruses and to shorten its isolation guidance for Covid. Slashing the Covid isolation guidance from five days to potentially just 24 hours based on the presence of fever ignores the available scientific evidence that people with Covid infections often remain infectious well beyond five days. 

On Feb. 23, 2024, NNU wrote to CDC Director Mandy Cohen warning the agency not to relax its Covid isolation guidance, urging the CDC “to follow the science to develop guidance that will best protect people’s health,” noting “Scientific research indicates that many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 remain positive and potentially infectious for five or more days.

“We are deeply disheartened to once again see the CDC weakening protections for public health, which will mean more transmission, illness, hospitalizations, and cases of Long Covid,” said NNU President Jean Ross, RN. “We must protect nurses’ health and safety so that they can continue to care for their patients, especially due to the staffing crisis that many hospitals face.”

CDC’s updated guidance for respiratory viruses, which equates Covid with influenza and other viruses, fails to recognize the significant health threat that Covid continues to pose, particularly the threat of Long Covid. While it is important that the CDC is recommending a multiple measures approach to respiratory virus prevention, including recommending improving ventilation, avoiding crowded spaces, wearing masks, and getting tested, in addition to getting vaccinated, it is harmful and problematic that the CDC has weakened recommendations for Covid isolation timeframes. 

The update comes on the heels of other work to relax infectious disease protections at the CDC: Late last year, the CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practice Advisory Committee (HICPAC) drafted infection control guidance updates that proposed to lump Covid with other respiratory viruses and set the stage to weaken CDC’s personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance for health care workers. 

NNU has been leading the national campaign to ensure protections for nurses, other health care workers, and patients, and, in response, the CDC sent the draft back to HICPAC to resolve some of our core concerns.

The CDC committed to expanding the scope of expertise on the committee and its workgroup, but has not made the results of that work public. As registered nurses, NNU’s members carry out many important aspects of infection prevention, which means their perspectives are necessary to crafting protective, implementable guidance and must be included on HICPAC and its workgroup. NNU’s petition to the CDC urges the agency to include frontline health care workers, unions, patients and community members as well as experts in occupational health, industrial hygiene, respiratory protection, aerosol dynamics, and infection prevention.  

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates include California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.